Many question the continued validity of the Ten Commandments in the Christian’s life based on what Jesus says in John 13:34: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another” (John 13:34). Let’s take a closer look at its significance …
When a lawyer asked Jesus which was the greatest commandment in the law, Jesus replied: “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:37–40).
Was Jesus revealing concepts that had never been heard before? Was He really disposing of the Ten Commandments and replacing them with “new” commandments of love?
In fact, Jesus was actually quoting directly from the Old Testament! “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5). “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18). These penetrating spiritual concepts were not really new, as they had been around for millennia. However, they were indeed new to the legalists of Jesus’ day because they had forgotten them in their daily life and practice.
Notice Jesus’ words: “On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” Jesus was saying that every commandment hangs on the principle of love. Without genuine love for others as our motivation, each one of the commandments would come crashing down to the floor—to be abused by legalists to control others. Christ was saying that genuine, selfless love is what God’s law is all about, and the apostle Paul repeats this truth in Romans 13:10.
If we love God supremely with heart, soul, and mind, we will obey the first four commandments that have to do with our interaction with God—we will not take His name in vain, worship other gods, we will keep the Sabbath holy, etc. And if we love our neighbor, we will naturally want to obey the remaining six commandments, which relate to our interaction with others—we will not steal from our neighbor, we will not distort the truth, etc. Love will lead to obeying, or fulfilling, all the law.
So, we see that by giving these “new” love commandments, Christ was not replacing the Ten Commandments—but summarizing them.